Thanks to relocation efforts by conservationists and the local community, black rhinos are back in Kenya.
In the 1960s, black rhinos once numbered 70,000 but now, there are only between 4,000 to 5,000 left in the world. Ince a common sight in Kenya, the black rhino population was decimated by poachers who killed the last of them 25 years ago.
Now, a small population is being reestablished in Kenya from existing herds in Lewa, Nakuru, and Nairobi National Parks. 20 rhinos have been shipped to and released into the new Sera Community Conservancy in the territory of the Samburu people in northern Kenya, with the hope that the animals will reproduce and spread out throughout the land.
The rhinos’ new home is owned and operated by local Samburu people and the park’s community rangers will watch over the animals to ward off poachers. They will receive support from the project’s other partners, which include the governmental organization Kenya Wildlife Service and the nonprofits Northern Rangelands Trust and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
“This will be the first time in East Africa a local community will be responsible for the protection and management of the highly threatened black rhino, signaling a mind shift in Kenya’s conservation efforts.”
There are currently seven remaining Northern White Rhinos in the world. The species has been hunted to the brink of extinction by poachers, hoping to make money by selling the animal’s horns.
After losing the only other two males in 2014, there now exists just one living male Northern White Rhino. The animal, named Sudan, currently lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, 200 kilometers north of Nairobi in Kenya. Sudan moved to the conservancy from the Czech Republic Dvur Kralove Zoo on December 20th, 2009, along with three female Northern White Rhinos, Najin, Fatu and Suni.
But the rhinos do not live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy alone. They are accompanied by a team of experienced rangers who monitor the 90,000 acres of conservation land, guarding the rhinos against dangerous poachers.
To protect these giants, the rangers work with local law enforcement agencies and use GPS trackers, radio houses, surveillance aircrafts and dogs trained to detect humans and security breaches.
The rhino horn black market is extremely lucrative. One horn can bring in more than $75,000 per kilogram or 2.2 pounds, which is the reason poachers have nearly wiped out the entire species.
These four rhinos were moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to provide the most favorable breeding conditions, in the hopes of bringing the species back from the edge of extinction. It’s believed that the climate, diet and security of the conservancy gives them the best chance for repopulation.
Conservationists and scientists are also considering artificial insemination or cross-breeding the females with similar rhino sub-species and then breeding the next generation back into pure Northern White Rhinos.
Image credits: Dai Kurokawa/European Press Agency